Creating a flow in practice is important, and one of the toughest ways to actually do it is to blow the whistle less. It’s natural for coaches to want to coach – to correct mistakes as they happen. But I’ve found the more I blow the whistle, the less flow there is to practice. It becomes choppy, and a lot of times it’s because I’m too involved.
It’s hard to get comfortable with, but you have to let your players play through some mistakes. You can’t stop and correct everything that goes wrong. You certainly want to have your non-negotiable, the things that are major points of emphasis and you have zero tolerance for. But you ave to put up with some turnovers, some missed assignments and some fouls. If you have assistants, they should be prepared to make teaching points when kids are subbed out or on the side of drills. You can’t expect a perfect practice, and you can’t correct every mistake.
It’s easy to feel like you are letting stuff go and not holding guys accountable for doing the wrong thing, but look at it the other way. You are preparing them for games, when you can’t stop the action and correct them. If you are constantly blowing the whistle, you really aren’t allowing them to grow.
The military uses a phrase with their training that I like to apply to coaching “In command without control.” I like to try and coach that way. The head coach is clearly in command, and sets the tone and the direction for how the game is going to be played. But he’s not in control during live play. The players have tone permitted to handle that.
There are times in practice when I realize I just need to put my whistle away. I just don’t stop the play. I’ve been talking too much, it’s been too choppy, and there’s just no flow at all. Practice has to be efficient and to flow to be effective. If that’s going to happen, I can’t be stopping it on every possession to make a teaching point.
It can be tough to do, but think about blowing the whistle less. Let your players play through their mistakes and let your practice develop a flow. You can still find plenty of time to teach, and you aren’t going to let your players develop bad habits. In fact, you may actually be preparing them better for the games. Blowing the whistle less can help you get more out of your team.